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The Los Alamos County Council adopted twenty-one ordinances to amend the Los Alamos County charter and intends to present the amendments for approval by the voters in four ballot questions at the November general election. Each ordinance is on a separate subject as required by the current County Charter. They should not be rolled into groups for voter approval just for expediency.
Los Alamos Governmental Review Initiative (LAGRI) presented a request for petitions for six of those ordinances to the County Clerk. Each petition requests the council to rescind the ordinance or send it separately to the voters.
The ordinances are the following: Ordinance 598 which adds new topics on which initiative petitions are not permitted; Ordinance 601 which shortens the time period to gather signatures from 180 days to 90 days and which eliminates the 10-day grace period; Ordinance 605 which adds new topics on which referendum petitions are not permitted; Ordinance 607 which increases the signature requirements for a referendum petition from 10 percent of the voters in the last general election to 15 percent of the average of the last two elections; Ordinance 615 which ties amending the charter to the initiative process, thus shortening the time period to gather signatures from 180 to 90 days; and Ordinance 618 which requires that if amendments to the charter are not dependent on each other and there is no direct, necessary or logical connection between the operation of each, the amendments shall be submitted separately to the voters.
An analysis of the current initiative process compared to the proposed process indicates that no citizen who has petitioned in the past and none of the over 2,000 citizens who have signed past petitions would have asked the Charter Review Committee (CRC) to recommend decreasing the number of days for an initiative petition and that none would have asked the CRC to limit further that which can be petitioned. The overall effect is to make the initiative petition process much more difficult and much more limited.
A similar analysis of the set of seven ordinances modifying the referendum petition process also indicates that the suggested increase in the signature requirements in Ordinance 607 alone makes that process much more difficult. The proposed ordinance, 605, also limits the referendum process by limiting that which can be petitioned.
There must be a reason not yet divulged by the council as to why it voted to make the petition process much more difficult and much more limited. If the general consensus of the CRC is that initiative and referendum petitions should no longer be allowed and the council is in agreement, then the community needs to have that discussion and not have their petition rights chipped away with multiple charter amendments until they become so difficult and limited that no citizen, ipso facto, would attempt to carry a petition.
LAGRIBoard of Directors